Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Pine, AZ 85544
Tonto Natural Bridge is the world's largest travertine natural bridge, formed by a small stream flowing through a shady canyon in the wooded foothills of the Mogollon Rim wich is viewable by several short hiking trails.
The area surrounding the bridge has been made into a state park called Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, which is located off State Route 87, just 10 miles (16 km) north of Payson. Tonto Natural Bridge stands over a 400-foot-long (120 m) tunnel that measures 150 feet (46 m) at its widest point and reaches a height of 183 feet (56 m).
Water Wheel Falls Hiking Trail and Ellison Creek Swimming Hole
Tucked between Payson, Arizona and the base of the Mogollon Rim, this watering hole is a picturesque destination full of gorgeous natural landscapes. The Water Wheel Falls area features flowing waterfalls, shimmering pools, and cool water along the East Verde River. The Ellison Creek Swimming hole is at the base of a long cascading waterfall that rushes down a huge stone embankment and is complete with a carved log staircase.
The Water Wheel Waterfalls and Hiking Trail are named for the depression era mining wheel that sits a short distance from the trailhead. The wheel was built in the 1930’s by a miner named James Greer. It powered an ore crusher that extracted gold, when it was still found in the area.
Zane Grey Cabin and Rim Country Museum
700 S Green Valley Parkway
Payson, AZ 85541
The Northern Gila County Historical Society operates the Rim Country Museum and the Zane Grey Cabin located in Green Valley Park on West Main Street. The Rim Country Museum and replica of the Zane Grey Cabin are quaintly nestled within the green rolling hills and three lakes of the award winning Green Valley Park, which was built around these historic structures.
North of Payson
This 2,000-foot-high escarpment stretches 200 miles across central Arizona into New Mexico.While sightseeing is the favored pastime along the Rim, it also boasts a historic system of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback trails, many picturesque lakes for boating and fishing, plus backcountry skiing for the truly adventurous.
It shows up on maps as little more than a jagged ink line making its way across Arizona. One of the state’s defining natural features, this giant, slanting escarpment of volcanic and sedimentary rock and pine has amazed and hypnotized travelers for centuries.
Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery
3898 N Tonto Street
Payson, AZ 85541
Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery is located within the Tonto National Forest and is operated by the United States Forest Service’s Hatchery Program. The hatchery was constructed in 1937 and is located at an elevation of more than 6,500 feet, featuring residential and commercial structures for daily fishing operations that produce more than 15% of the state’s trout stock.
Visitors to the hatchery can learn about the facility’s fish catches and production, which focuses on rainbow, brook, cutthroat, and Apache trout varieties. Wildlife and bird watching are also popular activities at the site, and several campgrounds and fishing spots are offered near the facility throughout the national forest.
Tonto National Monument
Roosevelt, AZ 85545
This National Park features Native American cliff dwelling built over 700 years ago. The ruins are 25 rooms built into the cliffs overlooking Roosevelt Lake. Tours of the ruins are available. The Visitor Center at the site offers a great introduction into the people who built the dwellings in the 1300’s.
The newly remodeled museum features artifacts and replicas. The park movie shows on demand through the day. The bookstore, operated by Western National Parks Association, sells educational items.
Tonto National Forest
The Tonto National Forest, Arizona, embraces almost 3 million acres of rugged and spectacularly beautiful country, ranging from Saguaro cactus-studded desert to pine-forested mountains beneath the Mogollon Rim.
This variety in vegetation and range in altitude (from 1,300 to 7,900 feet) offers outstanding recreational opportunities throughout the year, whether it's lake beaches or cool pine forest.
As the fifth largest forest in the United States, the Tonto National Forest is one of the most-visited “urban” forests in the U.S. (approximately 5.8 million visitors annually).
Rim Country Forest Lakes and Streams
The many high-country forest lakes surrounding Payson offer anglers a variety of fishing opportunities. Payson is surrounded by the largest stand of Ponderosa Pines in the world that offer a heavily forested setting for the areas many trout lakes.
Some of these high forest lakes also contain populations of both large and small mouth bass.
Streams and springs which make up the region’s natural drainage cascade off the 7000-foot escarpment of the Mogollon Rim and have created a wealth of trout streams both on the plateau above and in the forest below. In the summer months the most accessible areas of these streams are heavily stocked with catchable rainbow trout from the Tonto and Canyon fish hatcheries operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. These waters also contain a healthy population of wild rainbow and brown trout.
The area, which contains three lakes in addition to Roosevelt Lake, has over a million visitors a year. Many make the trip especially to see Tonto National Monument, the cliff dwelling ruins of 25 individual rooms in natural caves overlooking the lake.
The well-preserved ruins were inhabited by the Salado Indians in the 1300’s. The Theodore Roosevelt Dam that created Roosevelt Lake was built between 1905 and 1911.
This large warm-water reservoir is the largest and oldest man-made lake in the state with some of the best bass fishing in the country. Roosevelt is also popular for recreational boating and water-skiing.
The second dessert reservoir below the Mogollon Rim on the Salt River chain is Apache Lake.
Often referred to as the prettiest lake on the Salt River chain, the pristine environment is large desert reservoir providing anglers a variety of warm water sport fishing opportunities.
This scenic lake also contains a population of big horn sheep that are often observed on the desert’s surrounding desert cliffs and mountains.
East Verde River
The East Verde River begins on the Mogollon Rim and flows generally westward through Gila County and the Tonto Forest passing within 5 miles of Payson.
This area of the East Verde is stocked weekly with rainbow trout from April through September in approximately 30 different locations.
The East Verde near Payson is also known for its swimming holes.
Fossil Creek is a four-mile stretch of water located between Strawberry and Camp Verde known for its warm water, gorgeous scenery, and iconic waterfalls.
This creek also offers a unique catch-and-release fishing opportunity for the Arizona native chubs.
This beautiful creek is fueled by springs upstream which keep the water at a comfortable 70 temperature year-round making it a fishing and swimming delight.
Shoofly Native American Village Ruins
1-5 Houston Mesa Rd
Payson, AZ 85541
Located at the edge of Houston Mesa near Payson, Shoofly Village Archaeological Ruins offers visitors a self-guided tour of the ancient southwest. The Shoofly Indian Ruins were believed to have been constructed between A.D. 1000-1250. At one time, the Rim Country area around Payson was home to probably 1,000 different sites, the very heart of the prehistoric cultures in the Southwest.
The people who lived in the Rim country -- known variously as Mogollons, Ancient Ones or Bunheads -- were literally surrounded by the Sinagua to the north, the Anasazi to the northeast, the Mogollon to the southeast, the Salado to the south, and the Hohokam to the southwest.
Payson, AZ 85541
The Payson Pioneer Cemetery is on a little hillside on the west side of Payson overlooking the Payson Municipal Golf Course. It is owned and held in trust by the Payson Pioneer Cemetery Board, which is part of the Payson Woman's Club.
Hundreds of graves are scattered over nearly five acres of land that is shaded by oak and juniper trees. Wildflowers grow in abundance and the graves are neatly marked and decorated with flowers of all colors.
According to local history, the first person to be buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery was John Meadows, killed on his ranch at Diamond Valley by renegade Apache Indians in 1882.
Green Valley Park
1000 W Country Club Dr
Payson, AZ 85541
Green Valley Park is a beautiful 45-acre recreation area that is used year-round for all kinds of activities and events, including walking, fishing, boating, picnicking, skating, and general recreation and relaxation.
The park has a large grassy area & an amphitheater that is utilized for events such as summer concerts and holiday events. It also has picnic ramadas, outdoor cooking facilities, and a playground.
The park features a memorial to Arizona Veterans, and has twice hosted the Vietnam Wall Traveling Memorial. Green Valley Park also contains Historic Buildings and Museums, including a replica of Zane Grey's cabin.